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“I’m sorry, Melony is on the other line, may I take a message?” my friend Tisha spoke in her most professional voice. “Chris? Ok Chris, does she have your number? Good, I’ll give her the message. You have a great day.”

I breathed a sigh of relief as Tisha lied for me for the umpteenth time. “Thank you, girl. I owe you one.”

“One? Nah, honey. That was like the 5th time this week. Twice today. Why are you lying to this man? Just tell him the truth!” Tisha scoffed.

I rolled my eyes because she knew better. I was nowhere near as outspoken as she was. That’s one of the things that made this friendship work; we balanced each other out. “Tisha, you know I’m not going to tell him that. I’ll just tell him…I don’t know. Something.”

“He’ll stop calling and texting you if you gone head and tell him you are too old to have to deal with three minutes worth of sex.”

Tisha was so crass but unfortunately, she was so right. I’d been dating Chris for about three weeks and while he was a nice guy, his sex was God awful terrible. The first time we slept together, he was finished before I even knew he began. If I was going to let him into this wonderland, he was going to have to stay for a while and ride all the rides.

“Whatever. He’ll get the hint eventually.” After the other night when I practically ran from his house, I thought he surely would have gotten the hint. I was not so lucky. “Anyway girl. What you want to eat for lunch today?”

“Zaxby’s. And you’re buying. Let’s go,” Tisha said shutting down her computer and getting her purse.

I laughed at my friend and did the same. We left the building and headed to town for lunch. Tisha and I worked at South Georgia Technical College with the Move on When Ready program. We worked closely with Americus-Sumter High School counselors, teachers and principals to enroll high school kids into college classes for college credit.

I absolutely loved this program. It gives kids a chance to start college or to even earn an associate’s degree while still in high school. It’s great for kids looking to take up a trade or to go into college with two years under their belt. I really wish they had a program like this when I was in school but at least my sons Darius and Daylon were able to take advantage of it.

Since I was buying lunch, I made Tisha drive. Before we made it to Zaxby’s, my cell phone rang and I figured it was one of my boys. I was surprised it was my ex-husband David.

“Hey, Mel. You busy?” he asked in his deep baritone voice.

“Just going to lunch with Tisha. What’s up?”

“Oh ok. Tell Tisha I said what’s up. Can you call me later then?”

“David, what do you need? I can talk now,” I said while rolling my eyes. This man has always been a push over.

“What are you going to get Daylon for his birthday? He mentioned some shoes to me but I think we need to look at getting him stuff for college.”

I dropped my head and pinched the bridge of my nose at David’s insistence in calling me for insignificant things. I was happy that even after being divorced for two years, we were able to be cordial. Actually, we were more than cordial; David and I got a long better than most married people I know. However, it irritated me to no end when he called for stuff like this. But old habits die hard I guess; after being married for twenty years, he was just used to talking to me.

“I’m not sure, David. I haven’t really thought about it. I am with you about the stuff for college. That is, if he ever narrows down a school,” I lamented. It was the second semester of his senior year and Daylon hadn’t picked a school yet. Not that he didn’t have his choice of schools. He was already accepted into Fort Valley, Georgia Southern and Savannah State. Just the fact that he was accepted into more than one college was a far cry from where he was a few years ago.

“Yeah, two weeks ago I thought he was sold on Savannah State after the second visit. But now he wants to go to a HUBC.”

“HBCU,” I corrected. “I don’t really care where he goes. He just needs to make a decision. Deadlines are approaching.” Because I worked at a college, I knew the dangers of waiting to the last minute to turn things in, especially when it came to housing and financial aid.

“You’re right. I’ll talk to him again this weekend,” David informed me. “Enjoy your lunch. I’ll talk with you later.”

“Ok then. Bye,” I said and hanging up my phone. Tisha and I made it to Zaxby’s and because we didn’t go to lunch until 1, we missed most of the lunch time crowd. We ordered our meals and sat down in the two seat booths. I poured my bleu cheese dressing on my buffalo bleu zalad and dug in. I loved Zaxby’s salads. I just wish they weren’t so big because I hated to waste food so I had to eat it all.

“If you weren’t out here hoeing around, I’d swear you and David were still married,” Tisha commented while dipping one of her chicken tenders in Zax sauce.

I almost choked on my zalad. “Tisha I am not hoeing around! I am just enjoying my freedom!”

Tisha looked at me pensively. “How many men have you dated since your divorce? Hell, let’s not even go back two years. How many men have you dated this month?”

“Tisha. Stop being so damn dramatic! I go on dates. I don’t sleep with every man I date. I’m just out here enjoying my life. I think I deserve that,” I reasoned.

No one could convince me that I didn’t deserve to have a good time, go on dates and enjoy the attention, gifts and occasional sex from men. Even though I was two years away from being 40, I was nowhere near old. People were often surprised that I had sons that were 20 and 18. I wasn’t one to brag but I wasn’t the toothpick skinny girl I was back in 1998. The weight I have put on over the years has migrated to all the right places. And now that I was single, I was taking advantage of this newfound attention I earned from men.

David and I got married right after I had Darius. I was 18 and he was 20. We were young, in love and ready to conquer the world as the Watkins. We didn’t quite conquer the world but we did pretty good for ourselves and our children until David lost his job. Even though I was making enough money to support us, it was a struggle and David didn’t take being out of work too well. He was offered jobs but he was looking to make the kind of money he was making at his old job. Even after I told him that was almost impossible in Americus, he turned down jobs. For almost a year, David went on interviews but refused to take jobs because of the pay.

David was an easy-going guy who usually did what I said but with this job thing, his pride clouded his judgement. After a while, money got tight and he was pushed against a wall. He earned his CDL and went out on the road. Even though the money was good, not having my husband here took a toll on me. I kept telling David I needed him here but he insisted he needed to make up for the time he spent not working. Even when Daylon was having problems, David refused to come off the road leaving me to handle him alone.

Daylon lost his mind when he was 14. We try not to mention that time in his life because even now, it hurts me to think about it. Daylon started hanging out with a different crowd of boys and his behavior started to change slowly. At first he was failing tests here and there and skipping a class every so often. Then he escalated to getting into legal trouble. He ended up on probation for fighting at school and stealing from Wal-Mart. The straw that broke the camel’s back was my son being charged with entering an auto. Because he already had charges, he was sent to juvenile detention center. He was arrested on a Friday and Monday was Memorial Day so I couldn’t see him until Tuesday. Those few days were the longest of my life. I couldn’t eat, sleep or function for worrying about my baby.

What I really needed was my husband to come home and help me with our son. I needed him to come home and hold me. But…he couldn’t. At the time he was in Minnesota. Or Texas. Or…hell, I can’t remember where he was. And his weak “he needs to learn his lesson” stance pissed me off so bad. That was the beginning of the end for me.

By the time David came off the road, this marriage was pretty much over for me. And it wasn’t just what happened with Daylon. David was too soft. He wasn’t a take charge kind of guy. I got older and needed something different in my marriage, something David couldn’t provide. I wanted to go on dates. I wanted to go on trips. I wanted to be more spontaneous. I wanted to have fun. I was so bored in my marriage.

He tried to save us but I was already gone. He came off the road and got a job at Lowe’s but that was too little, too late. Once he realized I was done, he didn’t try to fight me. Typical David. He signed the papers without a second thought and freed me from twenty years of monotony.

Tisha was right about one thing; I was absolutely living it up. Now that I was divorced, I was living the life I should have been living for the past twenty years. I traveled. I ate different foods. I cut my hair. I had one-night stands. I dated. I hung out. Even though David and I parted ways, I had no ill feelings towards him. I still loved him but I outgrew our marriage and now I was out here living my best life.

Tisha and I finished our lunch and headed back to work. I forced myself to finish my zalad and now I wasn’t worth a flip. Back at my desk, my phone rang and I prayed it wasn’t Chris again. I recognized the number as the number to Americus-Sumter High North Campus and answered immediately.

“This is Melony, how may I help you?” I answered trying to mask the itis I brought back with me from lunch.

“Melony, this is Joshua Carson from North Campus. How are you today?”

“I’m good Mr. Carson. How are you?” I responded in my perkiest voice. Mr. Carson was all the rage in the school system. He was the new assistant principal and everyone seemed to love him. I have only spoken with him on the phone and sent emails but never met him in person. Because he was new here, he called me a lot with questions about Move on When Ready.

“Good to hear. Listen, Melony. I have to go the board of education this afternoon and I want to stop by your office to run a few things by you. Will you be available?”

“Sure thing. I’ll be here,” I responded.

“Ok, I’ll see you in about an hour?”

“Yes sir. See you then.”

We hung up an I pulled Move on When Ready information to prepare for our meeting. “Hey Tisha, Mr. Carson is coming to meet with me. Do you have any handbooks printed?”

“I have a few. How many does he need?”

“I’m not sure. I just want to have things ready for him.”

Tisha and I printed handbooks and information sheets for him. Most of the questions people had were in the handbook and I wanted to make sure he had the information on hand. I had no problem with him calling or emailing me because he was new to the school system but just in case Tisha or I weren’t available, I wanted him to have access to what he needed to know.

Thirty minutes later, Mr. Carson came strolling into the office. I think everyone in the vicinity stopped when he walked through. He hadn’t said a word but his very presence commanded attention and respect. He was at least 6 feet tall and the way his navy blue suit hung on him was a tell tale sign that he frequented a gym. Even though I was sitting down, I could tell he had deep waves in his low cut hair. He looked like rolled right out of a chocolate factory. I never imagined the man I’d been emailing and talking to for the past few weeks would be this fine.

“Melony?” He asked as he approached me. “Finally I can put a face to the emails. Nice to meet you!”

He extended his hand to me and I shook it. Involuntarily I stuck out my hand and returned his gesture. I was so enthralled with his smile that my brain wasn’t able to do more than one thing at a time.

Noticing I was noticeably stuck, Tisha jumped in and introduced herself. I didn’t even realize I was still shaking his hand. “Mr. Carson, nice to meet you. We’re going to go over here and answer your questions.”

“Please, call me Josh,” he said to Tisha while looking at me.

I shook my head as if I was shaking my sense back into it. “We’ve printed you some material for you to take back to North Campus.”

“Thanks. I know I’ve worried you a lot with all of my questions but I’m really trying to push this program with my freshman.”

“Yes, it’s a really great program and I really hope more kids take advantage of it,” I responded finally getting back into my professional role.

“I’m definitely going to push it.”

We spent the next thirty minutes going over the particulars of Move on When Ready. From financial aid to credits to available programs. He asked a lot of questions and I was able to clarify things for him. He told me he just wanted to be as well versed in the program as possible so he could sell it to parents and students.

“I really wish they had something like this when I was in school,” he admitted.

“I said the same thing. These kids really don’t know the benefit of something like this.”

“Good ol’ Americus coming on up. I love to see my hometown growing like this.”

I raised my eyebrow. “You’re from here?”

“Yes ma’am. Born and raised on the Southside. I went to Americus High and graduated in 02. I went to school at Morehouse and taught a few years in the Atlanta area. When I saw the posting for the AP position here, I jumped at the chance to come back home,” he explained.

“So you left Atlanta to come home to Americus? But why?” Tisha asked incredulously. I was thinking the same thing but didn’t want to ask. Most people t